Boxing has been called everything from barbaric to a gentleman’s sport. Either way these men represent a spirit and amazing, near super-human endurance. Here are 10 of the greatest of the 20th century.
10. Sam Langford
Langford stood only 5 ft 6½ in and weighed 185 lb in his prime. Though not even considered medium sized by today’s heavyweight standards Langford retired with a 214-46-44 record. Heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey said “The hell I feared no man. There was one man I wouldn’t fight because I knew he would flatten me. I was afraid of Sam Langford.”
9. Jack Dempsey
Speaking of Jack Dempsey, this 6′ 1″ heavyweight was known for his punching power and tenacity. Not many were as tough as Dempsy. His final record was 66-6-11, for this day and age that’s a fairly long record. After a controversial loss to Gene Tunney, Dempsey retired from boxing, but the name Jack Dempsey is still very much associated with boxing some 80 years later.
8. Jack Johnson
No, not the performer. This Jack Johnson was known as the “Galveston Giant.” Having won the heavyweight title in 1908 beating Tommy Burns, the world was so shaken by such a dominant black boxer Jack London called out for a strong challenger, thus coining the phrase “The Great White Hope.” That hope appeared as the undefeated James J. Jefferies who came out of retirement in 1910 to fight Johnson. The result was a Johnson victory and race riots across the country.
7. Benny Leonard
Known as the “Jewish Wizard” this boxer went a total fights of 217 with 183 wins (70 by KO) 19 losses and 11 draws. Leonard was a dominate lightweight known for speed and power. Shortly after coming back out of retirement his career ended on October 7, 1932 when he was TKOed in 6 rounds by future champion Jimmy McLarnin.
6. Roberto Duran
The unorthodox stanced Panama born Duran retired with a record of 103 Wins, 16 Loss, 69 Knockouts in 2002 at the age of 50. Yes, that’s a five with a zero behind it. Duran was a serious ring mixer who only knew how to punch three ways: hard, fast and often. As a welterweight he beat the incomparable Sugar Ray Leonard before becoming a dominant middleweight.
5. Willie Pep
Having once actually won a round without throwing a punch, Willie Pep was beyond the exemplification of grace and fluidity. In that moment, that 180 seconds, he was the greatest boxer of all time. His record came out to 229 wins, 11 losses and 1 draw, with 65 wins by knockout.
4. Joe Louis
“The Brown Bomber” is probably one of the most recognizable names on this list, Joe Louis was an everyman to a lot of boxing fans. This 6′ 2″ heavyweight boxing legend was known as a hard worker inside and outside the ring. Finishing out his careers at 65 Wins (51 knockouts, 13 decisions, 1 disqualification), 3 Losses (2 knockouts, 1 decision) Louis lost his last fight in 1951 to Rocky Marciano, but not before he had defeated the likes of Max Schmeling and Max Baer.
3. Henry Armstrong
Armstrong has the distinction of being the only boxer to hold three world championships at the same time. He also defended the Welterweight championship more times than any other fighter. With a career record of 181 Fights – 151 Wins, 101 KOs, 21 Losses, 9 Draws Hurricane Henry still remains of of the most famous boxers in boxing history.
2. Muhammad Ali
Ali was impressive as both a boxer and a promoter… of himself. Despite how anyone might feel about him on a personal level, Ali did 2 things; kept the world interested and fought in some of the most interesting fights in boxing history. To be honest his record of 56 Wins (37 knockouts, 19 decisions), 5 Losses (4 decisions, 1 retirement), 0 Draws doesn’t seem too impressive until you look at who he fought; Ken Norton (2x), Sonny Liston (2x), George Foreman, Leon Spinks and Joe Frazier. His class was a tough one.
1. Sugar Ray Robinson
The original Sugar Ray saw 200 fights in his career and inspired the next two or three generations of boxers after him. Robinson retired from boxing with a record of 175-19-6 with 110 knockouts in 200 professional bouts, ranking him among the all-time leaders in knockouts.